GOOD MORNING! What would you do if you had 450 people lined up outside your door -- each one wanting you to give money to his cause? It would be overwhelming! What if it were 1 or 5 or 8 people a night -- and over the year it added up to 450 people? It would still be overwhelming. This is what happened to a person I know. Many people might be aghast that those in need knock on their door for help. The Jewish people are like one large family and the Torah instructs us to "Love our neighbor as yourself"; if one is in need he should be able to go to his family for help. However, it wasn't people knocking on his door or the large number of people that bothered my friend.
What was the problem? 80% of the money he designated for tzedakah was going outside of the community at a time when the rabbis and teachers in his children's day school were not receiving their salaries on time due to lack of funds and the local Jewish Federation needed more money to take care of the sick, the poor and the elderly. What to do? There are so many individuals and institutions that need help!
The person discussed the situation with his rabbi. The rabbi advised him that while it is meritorious to give something to everyone -- even $1 -- he should only give donations of $18 or up (which is what he was giving) to those to whom he had a debt of gratitude or felt a strong personal connection.
The man went one step further than the rabbi's advice and put a sign outside his door in Hebrew which translates as: "Welcome! We can only give $5 to each person. We are sorry. May you be blessed with success." In the next year, the number of people requesting contributions dropped to 180 people and has continued to drop. Meanwhile, he set up a schedule of monthly donations to his children's schools, the Federation and other organizations. Now 80% of his tzedakah stays in the community.
The Torah instructs us to give 10% of our net income for tzedakah. The Almighty is the ultimate provider Who determines what we make each year; He only asks that in return we give 10% of our net income to help others and to make the world a better place.
A person once asked his rabbi, "If one has $100 dollars to give, is it better to give $1 to 100 people or $100 dollars to one person where you can really make a difference?" The rabbi answered with profound wisdom: "Give $1 to 100 people. Then when the 101st person asks you for help, you'll feel for his situation and look for ways to help him. If you give $100 to one person, for the next 99 people who ask for assistance, you'll be defending yourself that you're already a good person because you gave to one person and made a difference. It will make you a hard person." What kind of person do you want to be?
Do you want to be a compassionate person or a hard person? Do you want to be a giver or a taker? Part of the decision is deciding what kind of example you wish to be for your children. When you focus on the kind of person you wish to be, then you will be able to formulate an approach to tzedakah to get you there.
My friend wanted to be a giver and he wanted to train his children to be givers and compassionate for others. He and his wife set out to make their home a place that others will feel welcomed and receive something both monetarily and on a personal level.
When the doorbell rings, he quickly goes to the door, greets the itinerant fund raisers with a warm smile and invites them to enter. He then asks them, "Would you like something to eat or drink? Would you like to use the bathroom?" If they would like something to eat or drink, he calls to one of his children, "We have a guest!" The children come and ask what they can get them to drink and if they'd like ice in their drink.
There is a local organization (The Va'ad) which vets the information of those who wish to go from home to home raising funds or collecting tzedakah. It checks with the institution the person purports to represent -- or if for personal need, checks out his bona fides -- and then issues a certificate validating the individual. My friend asks for the certificate and if all is in order writes a check for $10 so that they should feel good getting more than they were expecting -- and makes sure to escort him when the person leaves his home.
We all have a choice on the impact we make in this world, but if you want to know a person's character, see how he deals with those less fortunate -- especially when there are 450 of them!
Torah Portion of the Week
In last week's Torah portion, Pinchas acted to stop a public display of immorality. He thus stemmed the plague of retribution which was killing the multitudes. He is rewarded by being made a Cohen -- by Divine decree.
The Almighty commands Moshe to attack the Midianites in retribution for the licentious plot the Midianites perpetrated upon the Israelites. A new census is taken of the Jewish people revealing that there are 601,730 men available for army duty. God directs the division of the Land of Israel amongst the tribes. The Levites are tallied. The daughters of Tzelafchad come forward to petition Moshe regarding their right of inheritance. Moshe inquires of the Almighty Who answers in their favor.
Moshe asks the Almighty to appoint a successor and the Almighty directs Moshe to designate Yehoshua (Joshua). The Torah portion concludes with the various offerings -- daily, Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and holidays.
* * *
based on Twerski on Chumash by
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
In making his request to God to appoint a successor, Moshe asks:
"Let God, Lord of all spirits, appoint a person over the congregation" (Numbers 27:16).
Rashi explains that Moses was asking for "a person who can understand and relate to each individual". God responded, "Take to yourself Joshua, the son of Nun, a man in whom there is spirit" (Numbers 27:18). In what way does Joshua being "a man in whom there is spirit" satisfy the qualifications that Moses requested?
The Alter of Novaradok explains that a human being is comprised of a body and a spirit. The body produces all the cravings which stimulate pursuit of self-gratification. The spirit is the force that directs the person away from self-gratification, to be devoted to a higher goal in life. These two components are engaged in a struggle for mastery over the person and determine the degree that the person is self-centered versus dedicated to higher levels of behavior and spirituality.
A person who is preoccupied with his own needs cannot fully empathize with others. The ability to relate to and understand every individual requires extraordinary empathy. Such empathy is possible only in a person who has no self-gratifying drives, who has subjugated them to the spirit. Only such a person can be self-sacrificing and absolutely fair to everyone.
Therefore, God's response to take "a man in whom there is spirit" is appropriate. Joshua had succeeded in achieving self-mastery, of vanquishing the bodily drives for gratification and making the spirit dominant.
CANDLE LIGHTING - July 13
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Guatemala 6:17 - Hong Kong 6:52 - Honolulu 6:59
J'Burg 5:13 - London 8:55 - Los Angeles 7:48
Melbourne 5:00 - Mexico City 8:00 - Miami 7:58
New York 8:09 - Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 8:40
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
"Tzedakah is not charity. Tzedakah means righteousness --
doing the right thing." -- Kirk Douglas
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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